Friends with ARCs | Bloodleaf + Girls with Sharp Sticks

February 27, 2019

Renaltan princess Aurelia has always known that her marriage to Achlevan prince Valentin was inevitable, an arrangement made many years ago by their parents. But when an assassination attempt that reveals Aurelia’s forbidden magical ability forces her to flee her kingdom and she winds up betrayed by her uncle, Aurelia must find her own way to survive… no matter what the cost. As Aurelia forms new alliances and learns more about magic, she’ll soon discover that there’s a much bigger conspiracy afoot and that she’s undeniably tied to the fate of two kingdoms and the people she loves most.

I honestly didn’t know anything about Bloodleaf before I picked it up, other than that it was a YA fantasy and involved blood magic in some fashion. Imagine my surprise upon learning from Rachel that it is inspired by The Goose Girl fairytale, which also inspired another novel that I recently read and loved! You’d think that being familiar with the characters and general plot details would deter me from enjoying this novel as much as I did, but that wasn’t the case at all. While Smith kept enough of the details recognizable for anyone familiar with the source material, she added enough elements (particularly the magic) to make it uniquely her own. I was really swept up in the story and enjoyed the characters overall (though I did feel like a couple of relationships weren’t quite as well-executed as I’d have liked). Even though Bloodleaf does play with the typical YA fantasy tropes and leans towards predictability in that sense as well, I still found it fun on the whole and will certainly be keeping an eye out for book two.

What five charms would you pick out for a charm bracelet? I actually do own a couple of charm bracelets in real life, and I have way more than five charms so it's a little hard for me to decide! But I think I'd go with: a heart (for my loved ones), a book (obviously), a plane (for travel), a cross (for faith) and a castle (for fairytales, but also for Disney).

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith | Series: Bloodleaf #1 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: March 12, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)


Innovations Academy is an exclusive all-girls boarding school, where the students are hand-picked for their eligibility to be groomed to be the most beautiful and well-behaved ladies in society. Under the careful tutelage of their teachers and the protection of their Guardian, the girls are content with their circumstances and friendships… until Mena begins to realize that their lives at the school might not be exactly what it appears to be.

I went into Girls with Sharp Sticks with zero expectations and minimal knowledge about the story, which I personally feel is the best way to experience this read. After I turned the very last page, I immediately had to text Rachel and discuss this story and how much it had surprised me – in a good way! And honestly, I still am not over how much I ended up loving Girls with Sharp Sticks. I was impressed with Young’s atmospheric setting, from the physicality of the locations to the details of this school to the general mood of this novel. I also really enjoyed getting to know the girls at Innovations Academy, eventually coming to really root for them and care about the outcome of their discoveries. But, most of all, I just could not stop reading because of the plot! The story unfolds (with great pacing), and I found it compelling and well-plotted. I’m so pleased we ended up choosing this one for Friends with ARCs, both for the fact that it ended up being an excellent read and so that I had someone to discuss it with once I finished. Girls with Sharp Sticks was a pleasantly surprising and entertaining reading experience (and it wouldn’t overly shock me if it hit my favorites list at the end of 2019).

What is your favorite female-led film or TV show? Honestly, it's a tie between Charmed and Dollhouse, both shows that I rarely ever talk about and that I actually haven't rewatched in ages. Charmed is a show I particularly loved because it's about three sisters (well, four) who discover that they're witches and have to deal with the consequences of that; Dollhouse was a show that just blew me away with the clever (and creepy) concept and I binged it when it was first introduced to me.

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young | Publisher: Simon Pulse | Publication Date: March 19, 2019 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

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